How can there be just 23 games left? Didn’t the season just start last week? I remember opening day so vividly. Sitting in the bleachers on a cool, cloudy April day, we gave Carl Pavano a big hand, and Alex Rodriguez blasted the first of his 46 home runs late in the game.
Things fell apart for a while, but here we are at game 140. The Yanks are 77-62 with the fourth best record in the American League. They are clinging to a two-game lead in the Wild Card with a chance to open up some distance tonight.
Phil Hughes, who has spent the last few days working with Dave Eiland, is due for a big start. Since coming off the DL, Hughes is 1-2 with a 6.40 ERA in 32.1 innings. I’m impressed with his 8.1 K/9 IP in that span but dismayed by his 4.2 BB/9 IP. I haven’t been too happy with the way Jorge Posada has called his games either.
So tonight is a big one for Hughes. The Yanks don’t know when – or even if – Roger Clemens will return to the rotation, and the team needs a starter other than Andy Pettitte or Chien-Ming Wang to turn in some consistent outings.
The Mariners, losers of 10 of their last 11, counter with Jarrod Washburn. The lefty has thrown well against the Yanks in his career. It could be a battle tonight, but we’ve got our number one bullet – Joba Chamberlain – itchin’ to pitch. Somehow, Joe Torre has avoided getting him into a game since Wednesday which is just swell.
Johnny Damon LF
Melky Cabrera CF
Derek Jeter SS
Alex Rodriguez 3B – He went for an MRI on his ankle this afternoon.
Jorge Posada DH – MVP! MVP!
Shelley Duncan RF – If he hits, Giambi sits.
Robinson Cano 2B
Wilson Betemit 1B
Hava Molina C – On Saturday, the Yankee Stadium scoreboard announcer played the Hebrew folk song “Hava Nagila” when Molina came up. I’m sure Jose had no idea what was going on. Hence the new nickname.
Phil Hughes P
A bit of sports-but-not-baseball self-promotion, if you don’t mind: Today marks the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new stadium in New Jersey that will house the Jets and Giants. The Stadium, set to open in 2010, will house 82,000. But more important is the New Jersey Transit station sitting right next to the stadium, and that means no more driving through traffic to get to football games. · (0) ·
YES Network: We know a squirrel seems to live on top of the right field foul pole. This is New York; there are lots of squirrels. Please get over it.
I love Chien-Ming Wang doubters simply because his success makes their collectives heads explode.
Wang, the devastatingly effective sinkerballer, has one again this year emerged as the ace of a talented and expensive Yankee rotation. After last night’s masterpiece – 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER – Wang is now 17-6 with a 3.69 ERA. As Peter Abraham noted, Wang has become a true Yankee stopper. He is 8-2 in 11 starts following Yankee losses.
But still the doubters counter with his strike-out numbers. He shouldn’t be this good, they say. He struck out one Mariner in 7.1 innings. His season’s K/9 IP stands at a meager 4.51 – a marked increase over last year’s 3.14 number but still a low total. But still, Wang stands tall with 17 wins, first among Major Leaguers. And for good measure, he’s nearly topped his stellar 2006 season after missing his first four starts due to a hamstring injury.
So how does he do it? Well, you and I know it: It’s the groundballs, stupid. Last night’s game showed the beauty of those groundballs. Wang induced 17 groundballs while giving up just three flyballs (and one home run to a righty for just the second time this year). His defense turned three double plays behind him, and the Mariners simply could not deal with his sinker.
I love it. I love how Wang gets one double play every 5.78 innings. I love the 2.69 GB/FB ratio which is lower this year than last because his strike out numbers are mercifully on the rise. I love how opponents have managed to hit just .264/.321/.369 off of Wang this year. And I love how the Yankees will be led by Chien-Ming Wang as he tries to deliver the team to the postseason all while gunning for 20 wins.
Watching young pitchers develop into top-notch starters is one of the sheer pleasures of baseball, and that’s what we’re seeing now in a pitcher who has now won 36 games since April of 2006. That’s what we’re seeing in a pitcher who’s given up 2 ER over his last 22.1 IP. The Ace has definitely arrived.
The final BA Hot Sheet of the season highlights the players who had the best overall seasons in the minors this year (as opposed to the best week). IPK & Joba come in at numbers 4 & 5 respectively, which is just insane. Yankee farmhands had 2 of 5 best seasons in all of minor league baseball. Ridiculous.
Evan Longoria (#6) & Wade Davis (#12) of Tampa Bay are the next highest ranked pair of organization-mates. As a bit of gravy, Red Sox prospects had 2 of the most disappointing years.
Triple-A Scranton was off, and will take on Richmond tomorrow in Game 1 of their first round, best-of-five matchup. Chad Jennings has the potential pitching matchups, and notes that Austin Jackson & Eric Hacker were sent down in favor of Frankie Cervelli (that’s one hell of a surprise) and Sean Henn.
We pick up the action in the top of the 5th…Wang’s on his game and Georgie’s already juiced one for a 1-0 lead.
Michael Kay’s currently blabbing about how Wang’s ERA is so ridiculously low when he pitches from the windup compared to when he’s pitching from the stretch. Read this to unstupify yourself.
Forbes.com has named Curt Schilling as one of the ten most despised athletes around. Using such phrases as “a mouthy, attention-getting self-promoter who brags about his work ethic,” the article offers up a profile of the Curt Schilling we know and hate. With a passion. · (8) ·
When the Yanks, with the help of the City of New York, grabbed the Macombs Dam Park and appropriated it for their new ballpark, they agreed to pay back the Bronx through money that will go toward new parkland. Seventeen months later, the Yankees and the Bronx have yet to fulfill that promise.
Metro has a little bit more:
Central to [the new Yankee Stadium] deal was the promise of an annual $800,000 for Bronx nonprofits over the next 40 years. Critics labeled this a “slush fund,” because the money would be doled out by a new not-for-profit staffed by representatives of Bronx elected officials, and it didn’t have to be spent in the affected community. The funds were to start flowing, the agreement said, “upon the commencement of the construction.”
So imagine the surprise of Geoffrey Croft last week, when he discovered — one full year after the stadium’s groundbreaking — no such not-for-profit has been registered with the state yet, and no funds have been disbursed.
While I may object to the new stadium on the grounds that it’s simply not necessary – and an average home attendance of 52,645 would bear me out – the Yanks have continually stiffed the Bronx community on this deal. As the article notes, the city gave up the parkland to the Yanks with no public hearing.
Now, you may fault community silence, and it does seem that these Save Our Parks folks haven’t gotten nearly the attention they deserve. But the Yanks owe it to the city to make up for the missing parkland. At a deep discount, they’re taking public lands. They should replace it sooner than 17 months after construction started on the new stadium.
Peter Abraham has a few choice words from Mike Mussina:
“We’re leading the wild card now and we want to stay after it. The last four days we haven’t played very well. We’ve been flat it seems like. We’ve got to get our heads on right and play with some energy.”
I was all set to write a post on this tonight, but Mussina summed up my feelings in fewer words. After dropping three of four this weekend, panic has set in a bit among Yankee fans. But the Yanks still lead the Wild Card, and they will win games. I think we’re see a re-energized Yankee team take the field behind Chien-Ming Wang on Tuesday night. Time to go for the kill. · (11) ·